Museum image fees (ctd.)

March 31 2018

Image of Museum image fees (ctd.)

Picture: Louvre

A curious development in the issue of museum image fees in the UK - the head of Tate Images is canvassing members of the Association of Historical and Fine Art Photographers on copyright in photographs of out-of-copyright artworks. Here is his email:

Hello everyone.

I'm new to this group so please let me introduce myself.  I'm Clive Coward and for the last 10 years I've managed Tate Images, the image library of Tate.  Prior to this I managed British Museum Images and have worked in Wellcome Images (where I know Richard Everett, AHFAP Chair, from and who pointed me to this group), the Royal Geographical Society and Bridgeman Images.

I hope you don’t mind but I would like to canvas opinions from professional fine art photographers (and anyone else) on the matter of the copyright status of the photographs they take of out-of-copyright artworks.  Given the current climate; Brexit, free images being supplied by European galleries and museums, the reduced funding for art-history publishing etc. I thought it would be good to hear from the professionals who create this photography in the first place.  

So if you don’t mind…

1) Do you regard the photography you create of out-of-copyright artworks as being protected under UK Copyright Law? 

2) Do you think UK Copyright Law is clear enough on this matter?

3) Do you think the photography of out-of-copyright artworks is protected under some other law, for example contract law? 

4) Do you support the charging of fees for the reuse of the photography?

It would be greatly appreciated if you could send your thoughts by April 13th.

Thank you and Happy Easter

Clive Coward

Tate Images Manager.

Since Clive is asking for the views of 'anyone', you can login and reply to him here, on JiscMail, which is the email discussion forum for UK education and research communities.

I'm not entirely sure how to read Clive's request. Does it signal a softening in Tate Image's position in favour of free images, or perhaps their uncertainty on copyright? Or is it an attempt to gain support for a tightening of copyright law, in favour of those who own paintings? When the UK finally leaves the EU and the transition period (in about 2021), charging museums will be able to rely on English law's definition of copyright, which is more in their favour than EU law.As a recap of the copyright issues, see Ivan MacQuisten's article in The Art Newspaper here.Copyright is, of course, the glue that holds the whole image licensing operation together. If there is no copyright in a new photograph of a painting which is itself out of copyright, then museums can no longer demand payment from publishers and scholars in the way they currently do. Might expect Tate Images expect the people whose very job it is to take photos to support anything that generates income from those photos? 

Anyway, I'd be interested to know your views. And hurrah for the first respondent, a photographer who refers Clive to this British Art Journal editorial, strongly in favour of free images. 

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